WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Off-spinner Jeetan Patel’s ability to turn the ball away from lefthanded batsmen has earned him a recall to New Zealand’s squad for the first test against South Africa next week.
The 36-year-old Patel, who answered an SOS call from coach Mike Hesson to play twice in India last November after almost four years in the test wilderness, has not played a test at home since March 2010.
“He brings a huge amount of experience to the team and gives us the balance of having two front-line spin options,” selector Gavin Larsen said in a statement.
“Jeetan brings the ability to spin the ball away from the lefthanders, which complements our other spinner in Mitchell Santner nicely.”
Despite Larsen’s vote of confidence it is highly unlikely New Zealand will field two spinners at University Oval, with all-rounder Jimmy Neesham also recalled to the squad for the game starting on March 8.
Neesham has not played a test since the third match against India last November with Colin de Grandhomme preferred as the batting all-rounder in the side in New Zealand’s domestic summer.
The 26-year-old Neesham scored 71 in Indore and had been consistent against the Proteas in the one-day series with 113 runs from three innings at an average of 56.5.
“Jimmy has impressed so far this summer and we’ve seen improvement in his game,” Larsen added.
“He gives us another option and is also very familiar with the conditions at University Oval.”
Left arm seamer Neil Wagner has also recovered sufficiently from a broken finger to be retained in the side.
”Having Neil back and available is fantastic news for us,“ Larsen said. ”Neil has been our leading wicket-taker in recent times and is a key player for us.
“He has worked extremely hard to get himself ready for the series and we expect him to be fit and ready to go come the first test.”
Pace bowler Matt Henry and batsman Dean Brownlie have dropped out of the squad and been released to play the round of day-night first class fixtures starting on March 6.
New Zealand is trialling the day-night games with an eye to playing a test against England under lights next year.
The first match of three test series is from March 8-12, with the second game in Wellington from March 16-20 and the third in Hamilton from March 25-29.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Tom Latham, Jimmy Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Jeetan Patel, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney